July 9, 2012

Toronto Police arrest and beat up black man for playing basketball

In the video below you will see James Bishop being arrested and beaten with batons and attacked by 5 Toronto police officers. The silent security camera video shows that James Bishop was not behaving violently and that the police officers forced him to the ground, pinned him, and then proceeded to beat him a baton.

While three officers hold him down a fourth officer delivers six baton blows and three elbow jabs to the man’s body. A total of seven officers were involved in the incident.

Other players on the basketball court, including James Bishop's son, are visibly troubled by the violence they are seeing and several document what happens on their cellphone cameras. One of the officers then seizes and examines the cellphone after a confrontation with one of the players.

The incident happened in January 2011 and the video was uploaded in July of 2011, but it has taken another year before it started receiving media attention.

James Bishop is now suing Toronto Police and the YMCA, alleging he was the one assaulted while playing basketball with his son, then 11, and was arrested over a “civil dispute” over the status of his YMCA membership which never should have resulted in an arrest.

In a statement of claim filed in June 2012, Bishop, 43, and his family are seeking $2.3 million in damages and name eight officers and an unnamed ninth as defendants, as well as the YMCA and Toronto Police Services Board.

His arrest was a “brutal display of force” and it was “obvious that the intent was to inflict maximum pain" says the suit. James Bishop begged the officers to stop at one point because he could not breathe.

Medical records show he suffered a minor heart attack during the time of the arrest.

The suit also says police seized onlookers’ mobile phones and erased images of the arrest, which “strongly suggest that the police knew that their conduct was illegal.” The security video shows this happening.

Police claim Bishop resisted arrest but the video tells another story.

In the video a YMCA staff can be seen attempting to block one onlooker from documenting the arrest on a cellphone. This suggests the YMCA staff knew what was happening was wrong and were attempting to prevent footage of it.

Although not easy to see in the video, it is revealed in court documents that Constable Glen Espie, the officer who delivered the baton and elbow strikes, used pepper spray on Bishop as well.

All charges against James Bishop for trespassing were later withdrawn when it was revealed that his YMCA membership status was apparently fine and dandy. (The YMCA suspended his membership over a friendly bet on a basketball game, but refused to hear his side of the story.)

The police response for a trespassing call was overblown and has left an entire family “traumatized” says Bishop’s lawyer Osborne Barnwell.

After the incident an officer approached James Bishop's son and deliberately poked him hard in the side with a baton “with intent to hurt” states the suit.

At 43 Division station, Bishop was having chest pain and asked repeatedly to be taken to hospital. A desk sergeant told him “he was fine,” the suit alleges. After a shift change, a black officer took over and following another request by Bishop, an ambulance was called.

Medical records show Bishop had suffered a mild heart attack. He spent two days in hospital under police guard.

Months after the incident the arresting police officers also intimidated James Bishop in a hallway outside court, standing in a “bravado manner” and had their hands “positioned next to their guns,” states his claim, and orchestrated a second arrest against him.

James Bishop was given a copy of the YMCA security video as part of disclosure. He had a friend upload the video, with a title of “Toronto Police Thugs Gang Up & Beat Guy Senseless,” to YouTube.

The incident is remarkably similar to what happened in 2007 when RCMP officers tasered Polish immigrant Robert Dziekański to death by repeatedly and simultaneously shocking him until his heart gave out. Police like to use the excuse that people are resisting arrest and use that as a green light to victimize and brutalize the person they are arresting.

Robert Dziekański was lost and confused. His death could have been prevented if a Polish interpreter had been made available and if police had simply tried to talk calmly to him, but instead they chose to "taser first and ask questions later". The officers were very trigger happy with the taser however and ended up shocking him to death.

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